Separation anxiety

….that is separation from my home!

I really hate going away; I hate the process of getting ready, all the essential but tedious preparations. Mounds of laundry to clear, things to clean and tidy, packing….It doesn’t matter in the end where I’m going or for how long. I just get upset  and anxious about it all. Remembering to get certain things done or put certain things in the packing simply winds me up to snapping point very quickly.

I gave up for a while today, took the dog out and when we got back I went to bed for a snooze. It hasn’t helped really. I’ve still got a lot to do and we’re off tomorrow.

I’m just hoping I can keep it together enough so I get in the car tomorrow without having done or said anything dreadful.

Urban Springtime

Urban Springtime


Petals and broken glass

Line the festal way.

Accidental emeralds gleam

Amid silken pink blossom

Trodden underfoot,

Sodden and sad:

Softness and sharpness

Mingling in the fallen trash.

Ten green bottles

Smashed against my wall,

Ten green bottles

Didn’t accidentally fall.

Drifts of pink petals

Candyfloss coloured

                   Blow lazily in hot wind

Drying to nothingness

In a few days, gone.

Some rubbish I can live with.


Marching on London

Yesterday I was in London with my students at the same time as the G20 protest march. We were kept away from the march and it passed peacefully, but I caught a quick view of them and snapped the following photo. The statue is of Boudicca(Boudicea) who marched on London and destroyed it in a bid to defeat the might of the Romans; it’s sited at the end of Embankment and faces the Houses of Parliament.

I’m sure you will appreciate the nuances and subtlties of the picture…



New Brickyard Lane

Over at Pilgrim’s blog  a story was posted that suggests how much we miss in everyday life.

The following poem needs a tiny bit of context explanation to be fully understood. When we first moved to our previous house in the Midlands, we were so busy moving in and getting settled a good deal of the things I like to do during the Spring got missed and so the following year, I bought a guide book to walks in the area around our village to give me an idea of what routes to take. One of the walks took in a rough track going out of the village and this lane, New Brickyard Lane was where according to the guide book one was most likely to see grass snakes in the Spring. Since I am very fond of snakes, I went for a wander up this ancient trackway (the brickyard was built in the seventeenth century and has long since vanished; the lane is littered with the remains of broken bricks.) 

New Brickyard Lane

No snakes today;
Just eggshells, dead magpies
And fragments of ancient bricks
Returning to the red clay.
The wind in a million leaves
Sounds like the summer sea
Whispering how deep it is.
On the way back
I gathered pine-cones
Till pockets and hands
Could hold no more.
I saw hundreds more in the gutter
Crushed from perfection to powder
By the relentless wheels
And I thought:
We have too much
That we can let such treasures lie


I’ve often thought that the presents people chose to give you for birthdays and for Christmas are actually a very interesting way of understanding how they see you, and this kind of mirror is rather a useful one for helping to reassess who we are.

I’ll try and explain. My parents gave me practical gifts this year, two new messenger bags and a shawl, and this reflects how they view me as a practical woman, living a busy life. It’s not strictly true as it’s only a small part of it, but it’s nonetheless a comforting feeling to know they subconsciously view me as able to take care of myself. The shawl is a caring touch, soft and warm and cosy, but also very practical; there are no threads  to get caught on cat claws and ruin the whole shawl.

My husband gave me a rock I had admired in a shop while we were out together months back. It’s a septarian nodule, often referred to as a dragon’s stone, and is a composite stone of several other minerals, calcite, aragonite and limestone. It’s polished and very smooth and extremely beautiful. I collect rocks; minerals, beach pebbles and crystals alike. I have some belief in the powers of crystals but a great deal of love for the beauty both visual and sensual they show. He also found me a CD of music, sacred Hindi chants mixed with the sounds of the waters at Chalice Well in Glastonbury. It’s one of the most lovely places in England and one of my utter favourites. The music was being played in a favourite shop, but as ti was a demo edition and wasn’t yet on sale I was unable to buy it at the time. He sneaked back while I was busy elsewhere and persuaded the shopkeeper (a friendly acquaintance of many years standing) to let him buy it for me. These gifts show his understanding of my loves of beauty and the sacred. I’ve looked up Septarian in some of the many directories online of “crystal meanings” and if you believe in that sort of thing, it seems appropriate that this unusual stone came to me right now.

One dear friend gave me a musical frog carved of wood; you run a stick along the ridges of its back and it makes a kind of croaking sound. According to Native American thought, my birthdate means I belong to the elemental clan of the frog; I suspect she doesn’t consciously know this but does know my love of unuusal artefacts and percussion instruments. It’s also probably Fair Trade, something I support when I can. A second dear friend also gave me a frog as a part of a gift made up of some incense cones and a windchime; the frog was the ceramic holder for the cones to sit in when being burned. It cannot be a coincidence that two people gave me frogs; I have a great affinity with them too. On a rare visit to the Friends Meeting House in Beccles, I surprised several of the Quakers I was talking with when I bent down to the surface of the little pond in the Meeting House garden and called a frog which proceeded to jump into the palm of my hand. I think they maybe think of me as the frog lady now!

My brother’s gift was a jacket, knitted in a rainbow lined with fleece and with a hood; it too is Fair Trade. I love the rainbow and have hat, gloves and even bootlaces but never something quite so big a statement as a jacket. It’s very bright and very vivid and impossible to ignore. It’s started people talking to me, to admire it. For me this gift shows that despite our profound differences in character and attitude in life, my brother has some real understanding of the person I am, and that whatever I felt when we were children, he does actually love me.

I had some lovely cards sent as well as some e-cards, and while it was a low key birthday, I felt cherished and cared for.

The gift that brought a lot of questions with it was from my daughter. She found for me the most beautiful silver Caduceus. If you are not familiar with this symbol it’s the symbol used by a number of health authorities; it’s usually depicted as a staff with wings and two snakes twining round it climbing it. This is sometimes referred to as the staff of Hermes, or of Ascelpius and is a powerful symbol used by healers.

It made me rethink my role as a healer. I did work as a healer once, using a form of massage as my medium but to be honest I was glad to let that go when we moved here. There are too many people out there who claim to be healers in some way and sadly so many of them are deluded and many delude others. I was not one of them; I knew the limitations of the modality I worked with and felt uncomfortable if people expected more.

But on a number of occasions over my whole adult life, I have laid hands on people and something beyond me has happened. Healing has occurred. It’s not me that does it, it’s as if something comes through me. It’s never been something I can turn on or off at will; it just sometimes happens. I’ve tried to leave that part of myself in the past because it brings up far too many questions that I can’t begin to answer and have become weary of asking. But my daughter has not forgotten and her gift to me has asked that I look again at myself as healer.

Perhaps I should do just that.

Dreams and reality collide

Yesterday I wished I had brought my camera with me. We’d taken the dog to the beach and on the way back nipped in to the little nature reserve near the car park there. Now there’s been a lot of work done on this area and it’s looking like becoming a grand area for nature to get on with it, and some paths through to stop people trampling.

One of the nicest features is a large pond, almost a small lake, and to make things even nicer, a large bench has been constructed out of old railway sleepers so you can sit and enjoy the view over the pond. As we did so, my hsuband spotted something unusual in the water: goldfish! First one and then a whole shoal of bright flashing fish, clearly released from bowls and aquariums when they got too big. They were all a good six inches long and obviously thriving, and as we watched we saw something else, just below the surface of the water. A gigantic and utterly majestic carp shadowed his brighter cousins. This fish was massive, several feet long perhaps, and the goldfish seemed unperturbed by him. He seemed almost a guardian of his domestic relatives.

Now on a number of occasions I have dreamed of ponds, lakes and rivers, where first massive goldfish and then other fish of improbable or even impossible sizes have lazily swam just below the surface, often raising their mouths and tasting the air. I’ve never been sure what if anything these dreams mean, but it was peculiar to see a version of my dream played out in real life.

Like I said, I wished I’d had my camera with me.

Birthday visit


On Thursday we went to Norwich, which is about 45 minutes drive away. I’d had the notion to walk the labyrinth as a way of celebrating my birthday but alas, the best laid plans….They had shut the labyrinth as a temporary measure to allow the grass to grow back. It did indeed look rather muddy and sorry for itself; it surprised me they had left it open during the winter. With Easter fast approaching, I do hope it’s open again soon.

I don’t know how many of you have ever walked a labyrinth but it is a very effective way of stilling the mind and searching one’s own depths. In the middle ages, doing a labyrinth on your kneees was seen as the equivalent for the infirm of the trip to Jerusalem on pilgrimage. I don’t do it on my knees but I do it prayerfully.

At least, when I can do it at all!

I had a good birthday. I am aiming to blog a bit more about it, and about the gifts my family and friends gave me but I have had internet problems since Thursday night and am still trying to get sorted. The nub of the issue was a corroded phone line into the house, now replaced but as is the way of these things, other issues came up that are still giving us gyp!

So if I go silent for another few days, that might be the reason why!


Can anyone explain Twitter to me in a way that the whole thing becomes even vaguely meaningful?

I joined almost by accident, at the request of a friend from my other blog, Cafe Crem, but he’s now vanished. Since I didn’t stop following him, he must have deleted his account. I must follow that up at some point and ask why. I now have a grand total of five people(or entities) following me. Of them, one is a friend in Gran Canaria(hi Dean!) another is my pal Jenny, whom I have known for years(hi Jenny!) another is a twitter pal of my original friend who I don’t know at all but feel it would be rude to now delete him. The two newest are a total stranger who has so far failed to answer my direct message about who she is and how we might be connected, and finally, last night the strangest of them all turned up.

The Henson Company is now following me. Yes, you got it, the guys who made the Muppets, created the creatures for such delights as Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and more recently, Farscape and many other films and TV shows.


Well, in trying to get into the spirit of the thing, I tweeted that I was spending the afternoon watching DVDs of Farscape and eating popcorn.

When I checked my emails before bed, that was what I found.

Barmy. It’s obviously either an automated system that picks up on key words, or some poor sod really needs to get a life or a better job.

For about a week, I(along with an enormous horde) followed comedian Stephen Fry, until I got very bored with it all. I liked him until then but he revealed himself to be not only the creatorof the term Luvvie but the very epitome of the term.

I simply do not understand it all. Oh, it’s nice to get little snippets of things about a few people I know and am far from, but the rest I don’t get. I’ve tried, believe me. It’s beyond me.

Politicians and celebrities are now all flocking to Twitter and it’s the politicians that annoy me. Go and do your flippin’ job, and stop arsing around pretending to be hip and cool and up-to-date. I(and I imagine a lot of people) don’t care if you are up-to-date with the latest fads; we only want that you do the job WE pay you for. I don’t want blow-by-blow accounts of the life of Gordon Brown; I doubt Mrs Brown does, even. I don’t want a minute by minute account of the day of David Cameron.

I saw a brief feature on the news about the uses of Twitter; some guy tweeted from Paris to ask what he could do there. That is so stupid; buy a guidebook, do some research! If you have Twitter on your phone, then you also have internet access on the move. Try something new for yourself, for heavens’ sake, don’t wait till someone says “Oh you must try the little Bistro near Notre Dame!”. Walk around and look around you. Someone has to be first and take a little tiny risk.

I cannot see that Twitter enhances my life in any real way beyond occasional messages from a few people who would maybe email or text me if there was anything really interesting happening. It’s a lie that we need to be in constant contact with each other about every little thing that occurs. We don’t. It doesn’t make me feel more connected with humanity, or anything like that. If anything it does the opposite. When it comes down to it, what can they do if I have a bad day other than say nice things? Can they appear (as if by magic like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben) and do something about it? No. Sadly they can’t. My family and friends(here) and neighbours can at least pass me a hanky and make me a cuppa.

So in a little while when I’ve got my face on, I’m off to meet a friend for a cup of coffee and a good old face-to-face chin wag. I don’t do it very often because life is busy and going to get busier, but it is important that we make time to BE with people when we can, and in the end, I do wonder if instant sound-bites are going to take up so much of people’s time that they stop finding time for the real business of connecting with people in a deeper and more meaningful way.

Family values?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I don’t mean any political hype here either. I am referring to the things we pass down the line, from ancestor to descendent, via both phenotype and genotype(nurture and nature)

Phillip Larkin wrote famously, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They don’t mean to but they do,” and sadly, as both parent and as child, I can only concur. We are so often unaware of what it is we pass on to our children, the illogical and often harmful thought patterns that we inherit consciously and unconsciously from our families. So much of what we unquestioningly accept as right and true is a load of old bollocks, pardon my Klatchian.

My mum has been seeing a counsellor recently to try and help with her depression issues. I’ve been paying a keen but nonchalant attention to what Mum has to tell me about this; I’ve always found with my mother that an oblique approach is better than the more direct approach that works with my father.

On Saturday as we walked through Cambridge, she was telling me a bit about her last appointment. It mainly focussed on what would or would not be an appropriate thank you gift for the counsellor, but Mum let slip a couple of things. The first was the counsellor had identified her tendancy to beat herself up over the slightest thing; I could have told her this but it takes a stranger to tell you this sort of thing. I nodded and agreed, and we navigated our way along Hobson’s Conduit, and then as we turned the corner, Mum then mentioned something about her father.

“Grandad used to say there was no need for dressing gowns,” she said. “That if you were ILL, you would be in bed, and if you weren’t ill, you’d be at work. There was no in between.”

Now, my grandparents were born in the very last year of Queen Victoria’s reign, and born to unspeakable poverty. I’ve seen the pictures; they look like something from a reformer’s pamphlet. My mum’s grandfather was in the Merchant Navy and did the classic seaman’s thing of coming home every so often to meet the new baby and get the wife pregnant again. My great grandmother was a sick woman most of her life; I found out a few years ago that she had breast cancer in her thirties, had one breast removed but continued to not only have more babies but actually breast feed them with the one remaining breast. My grandmother was one of a massive horde of kids, and as the eldest was heavily involved in the upbringing of them all. Three children died in the space of ten days, at some point in the early years of the twentieth century. My grandparents eloped aged 18, to the dismay of the family; my grandfather was from an equally huge family, and as the seventh child wasn’t even the youngest. He wasn’t a catch, apparently, in economic terms. But life went on much as before, with my grandmother living next door to her parents and bringing up her brothers and sisters along side her own brood. My mum is one of eight.

To tell you something of the hard nature of my grandfather, I’ll share one of the stories about him. Back in the 30’s, when the economic crisis was pretty deep, he was working on the overhead railway in Liverpool. It doesn’t exist any more but as an electrician he was a skilled worker. Health and safety directives being non-existent at the time, he fell off. He fell more than thirty feet into the service pit below and broke his back. He lay there all night, every other worker having gone home. In the morning, he managed to find the strength to climb out and somehow get to hospital where he was told he had broken his back(though obviously no severing of anything in the spinal cord) as well as most of his ribs and that he would be in hospital for at least six weeks.Grandad’s response? He refused. Apart from the fact that he couldn’t afford medical care on that scale, he had a family to feed. So they put him in a full body cast, from neck to hip and…he WALKED home. The next day, he was back at work. He lost only one day’s wages.

I wrote a jokey line in the poem here Accident of Birth, about my ancestor’s hardness- “Lost a leg? Hop, girl, hop.” That wasn’t really a joke. That’s pretty much what my family would say. As a child, being ill meant you HAD to have a temperature to prove illness. And then if you were in bed, you stayed there and were not allowed to read. Or go down and watch TV, or do anything. There were no half measures. I once cycled the rest of the way to school having had a nasty fall taking the skin off both knees and both hands, and arrived at school bleeding heavily rather than go home, even though the accident had taken place only a short distance out. The onset of my periods brought trouble because my Mum simply couldn’t understand why I was making such a fuss about the pain; get out in the fresh air and run around, that’d sort it out. Every woman gets a bit of cramps but it’s nothing to make a fuss about, she’d tell me. Knowing now that the endometriosis that makes my life a misery was almost certainly present when I hit puberty aged nine, is no comfort. I have trouble explaining the condition to Mum even now. In the end, all this heroic stoicism is why I made myself drag my body almost a mile with an appendix ready to rupture, rather than make  a fuss and call for help sooner.

This is not the only attitude I have simply accepted and absorbed unaware; there are a lot of others. My big question is how to I shed the ones that are not only unhelpful to me now but are actually downright harmful? You see, some of the others are tearing me apart in ways I can’t begin to express clearly; and I can’t even see clearly what is good and what is bad and what frankly is more than a bit mad or even dangerous.

Because laudable though my grandfather’s physical endurance was, it was also stupid. Only because the story had a different ending can I marvel at his strength; in another universe, moving without keeping his spine straight could have severed vital nerves, either killing or paralysing him for life. Either would have meant the workhouse or worse for his family.

So my task is to sort the wheat from the chaff of my inheritance, both the physical attributes and the mental attitudes. I can’t do much about the physical; I’m stuck with the double joints and the blonde hair. But if I can isolate and understand some of the less tangible things, is there any hope I can rewrite my own inner progamming for good?

I do hope so.